MS Dhoni expressed a desire the other day for Indian pitches to turn from the first day. It’s easy to be cynical about it, (‘It’s only because he hasn’t got any seamers’ e.g.) but I quite agree. If there is nothing in the pitch for the bowlers at all we get lifeless, boring tracks. These can turn into exciting matches as we saw at Mumbai, but only very seldom and only when the bowlers find some help late in the match. The vast majority of cases turn into stupefyingly boring draws, which are bad for everyone in the long term. It’s bad for the bowlers for obvious reasons and it’s bad for the administrators who face a declining interest. It’s also problematic for batsmen; for one thing it cheapens batting records, but also because they then do not know how to play when the ball is doing a bit.
We are seeing more and more instances of batsmen falling cheaply when they play on a good track. The most spectacular was Australia’s 47 all out at Cape Town, but I think the more damming example was in England last year. Rahul Dravid was the only one to succeed and he is one of the only batmen in the Indian order who plays with a good technique. On the other side of the coin was Virender Sehwag. On the subcontinent, where there is no venom in the new ball, Sehwag can attack with impunity and take the match away from the opposition. (As we saw in Chennai in 2008.) When he tried to do the same in England, however, he picked up a king pair. Sehwag is the best example, but few of the Indian batsman displayed the ability to play the moving ball. To an extent it isn’t their fault; many of them had never had an opportunity to play on a seaming pitch before.
Of course, India’s travails in England were against the swinging/seaming ball. Dhoni would like to see the ball spin, but I think it’s still fair. It’s very hard to get the ball to seam or swing in India, the conditions simply aren’t suited for it, so having the ball turn from the start is the next best thing. However it is achieved, it is very important for the bowlers to have some help throughout the match and I quite agree with Dhoni’s suggestion.